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Mike Ashley could be grilled by parliament over USC

Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley could be pulled into a parliamentary investigation over his business practices and the treatment of 200 former USC warehouse workers.

The employees, who worked at USC’s distribution depot at Dundonald, Ayrshire, lost their jobs last month with no financial compensation when Sports Direct put the young fashion retailer into administration. USC was later bought by Republic, another of Sports Direct’s fascias.

The Scottish Affairs Committee has launched an inquiry into what happened, inviting Ashley to give evidence at a parliamentary session. The request does not legally oblige him to go, but if he refuses they have the power to summon him.

Drapers understands the inquiry is likely to take place before the general election in May.

A spokeswoman said the committee would look into USC’s administration, including what attempts were made to rescue the company and whether large companies were prioritised over employees for payment prior to the business collapsing.

Meanwhile, Labour backbencher and local MP for Dundonald Brian Donohoe was due to meet some of the depot workers on Thursday at his central Ayrshire constituency. He called their treatment at the hands of USC and Sports Direct “despicable” and “appalling”.

Donohoe told Drapers this week that he wants to “see justice administered”, adding: “Ashley should be settling with his loyal workers. They are owed wages, holiday pay and bonuses, and for him to just walk away and leave his workers in such a state beggars belief,” he said.

“There is a moral obligation on Ashley. Anyone who has a bit of humanity about them would act in a more sympathetic way.”

At a House of Commons debate on January 27, Jo Swinson, minister for employment relations and consumer affairs in the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, said the events at USC were “particularly concerning” as it is not just a small company on its own but one part of a large retail group.

She continued: “MPs have raised significant concerns about the behaviour of Mike Ashley and I share those concerns. He seems determined to show that rules are for other people. There are serious questions to be answered about USC and many of its practices. The Insolvency Service has the power to receive information from the administrators and to investigate any company it believes has questions to answer.”

Donohue is also the secretary of Westminster’s Rangers Supporters Club and wants to ban Ashley’s involvement in Scottish football.

Sports Direct declined to comment.

Readers' comments (7)

  • He's a smart business man and I have nothing but respect for all that he and his team have achieved however he is a man with low moral fibre, a vulture and his team are built in his image - he's built a living off the back of peoples misery - He's built a living from selling c==p quality merchandise at inflated prices to the masses.

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  • Get in there MSP's - about time someone took this shady character to task. Can't think why anyone would want to work for or supply his businesses??

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  • I echo the sentiment expressed here. The treatment of the people involved in Dundonald who lost their jobs was despicable and this is not the only matter he needs to be questioned over?

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  • darren hoggett

    This is a moral issue, rather than a legal one. Change the rules so to stop this happening again or get off his back. MP's are always behind the curve and this is no exception.

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  • I totally agree with the comments, for all that is moral and right pay the workers, he's not exactly short of a few quid!
    If he get's away with it where will it stop, zero hour contracts and now this.
    He is very generous to a limited number of employees paying big bonuses all very strange! Hope they show him in the Commons committee if it ever get's that far could be the new Jerry Springer show.

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  • Unions were formed to deal with autocratic Victorian business owners that had to be forced into doing the right thing , think this set up needs a union to kick their arses !

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  • Obviously Mr. Ashley can afford the best legal advice and ride roughshod over his workforce. Us small independents wouldn't be able, or dare, to treat our employees in such a reprehensible manner - we'd soon feel the full weight of employment legislation - never mind the moral perspective. It's surely time this pre-pack and inter-company administration merry-go-round was sorted out. Unfortunately USC/Sports Direct and their like will carry on playing the system until the law is changed.

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